I bet this is not the first time you’ve tried making healthy lifestyle changes. In that case you probably know that one of the most frustrating aspects of change is that at times it seems outright impossible!
I want to discuss two ways people set themselves up for failure while trying to achieve their healthy lifestyle goals. You’re probably familiar with the first one. The second one is not so often discussed about.
Too Much Too Fast
I read somewhere that one factor that predicts NOT being able to stick to your exercise program is taking on too much too fast. A good example is when you suddenly decide to exercise 5-6 times per week even though you barely averaged once a week before that. This usually takes place right after the Holidays.
After three or four weeks, chances are that you’re forced to give up your exercise regime because your body refuses to co-operate! And if your body doesn’t give out, other demands in your daily life prevent you from sticking to your exercise regime. This is true about weight loss too. When you set ambitious goals like losing 20 or more pounds in 8 weeks, you’ll feel discouraged if for some reason your weight doesn’t drop as fast as you planned. In the worst case, you label yourself as a loser and give up.
My latest experience with “too much too fast” took place not so long ago. I was reading interesting books about all sorts of healthy dietary changes I could be making. I experimented with several but rather than losing weight, I found myself becoming frazzled.
It didn’t take me long to realize I was stressed out because I overwhelmed myself with too many changes at the same time. I dropped most of them and immediately felt relieved. As a result my waist circumference is showing some signs of shrinking.
It appears it’s not possible to make more than one or two simple lifestyle changes at the same time.
My suggestion is to pick one or two simple and concrete things to change (that are in line with what you want to achieve) and stick to them until you have fully incorporated it into your life. It may take longer than you think. Then you can pick other goals. If you’re lucky, you set off a chain reaction where one healthy lifestyle change leads to another.
You Aren’t Ready To Change
If you’ve ever read about goal setting, you might be familiar with the six stages model of behavior change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and relapse.
If you find it really difficult to make changes in your lifestyle, it might be that you’re still in the contemplation or preparation stage of change instead of the action stage. As frustrating as it sounds, changing and not changing both have their pros and cons that have to be acknowledged before you can change.
[notice]It might take a long time before you’re ready to make any real changes in your life…[/notice]
How do you know what stage you are in? Contemplation stage is characterized by mixed feelings about change, while in the preparation stage you might be able experiment with small changes. You can also find a good description of stages of change here.
I think I spent in a contemplation and preparation stages most of last year. I paid lip service to change and made several half-hearted attempts at changing my exercise and diet habits. Not until I bought myself a pedometer last fall, did I start making some real progress.
What to do about it if you’re not ready to change yet? It might help if you acknowledge that change is not such a straightforward process. You can take unnecessary pressure off yourself if you won’t take your lack of progress as sign of personal failure. It might also help if you read about stages of behavior change and work through your issues.
P.S. I would really like to hear what you think ! Leave your comments below.